The Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) is an ESRC-funded resource centre based at the Institute of Education, University of London. CLS houses three of Britain's internationally renowned birth cohort studies, the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) (a cohort of children born in 2000-01). CLS has most recently incorporated Next Steps (formerly known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE)), previously managed and funded by the Department for Education.
The three cohort studies involve multiple surveys of large numbers of individuals from birth and throughout their lives. The first Next Steps survey was in 2004 and included young people in Year 9 (age 13 to 14) who attended state and independent schools in England. They include information on education and employment, family and parenting, physical and mental health, and social attitudes. Because they are longitudinal studies that follow the same groups of people throughout their lives, they show how histories of health, wealth, education, family and employment are interwoven for individuals, vary between them and affect outcomes and achievements in later life. Through comparing the different generations in the three cohorts, we can chart social change and start to untangle the reasons behind it.
Findings from the studies have contributed to debates and enquiries in a number of policy areas over the last half-century including: education and equality of opportunity; poverty and social exclusion; gender differences in pay and employment; social class differences in health; changing family structures; and anti-social behaviour.
1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS)
- NCDS has its origins in the Perinatal Mortality Survey. Sponsored by the National Birthday Trust Fund, this was designed to examine the social and obstetric factors associated with stillbirth and death in early infancy among the children born in Great Britain in the course of one week.
- Information was gathered from all the babies born in England, Scotland and Wales in one week in March 1958 - nearly 17,500 infants.
- Because there were questions that remained after the first survey, the babies were followed up at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42 and 46.
- The most recent survey took place in 2008, when the cohort members reached the age of 50.
- Family background, cognitive and behavioural development, and educational achievement were the main focus of the study in the school years.
- Vocational education and training, employment, family formation and parenting, health, attitudes, and social and political participation gained prominence in adulthood.
1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)
- The original survey, called the British Births Survey, was designed for a specific purpose - to measure the progress in changes in care for mothers and babies, triggered by findings from the 1958 survey.
- Information was gathered about all the babies born in England, Scotland and Wales in one week in April 1970 - just under 17,200 babies.
- Like the NCDS, this study did not stop after the first survey, and the babies were followed up at ages 5, 10, 16, 26, 30 and 34.
- The most recent survey took place in 2008 when the cohort members were aged 38. With each survey, the scope of enquiry has broadened from a medical focus at birth to physical and educational development at age 5, physical, educational and social development at ages 10 and 16, and economic development and other social factors at ages 26 and 30.
- From 2000 the questioning has largely converged with that of NCDS, spanning the major domains of adult life including education, employment, housing, family formation, health, citizenship and values.
Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)
- The initial survey of MCS examined 18,818 babies and the 18,552 families who are bringing them up.
- It was carried out between 2001 and 2002 when the babies were nine months old.
- MCS is different from NCDS and BCS70 for the following reasons:
- MCS is sampled from a whole year's births, rather than just a week (to allow for any season-of-birth effects)
- it covers the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland
- specific localities were sampled, chosen to over-represent areas of child poverty, high concentrations of minority ethnic populations, and the three smaller countries of the UK
- fathers as well as mothers were interviewed in the first survey.
- The second survey ran from September 2003 to April 2005 and turned MCS into a longitudinal dataset. Its initial findings were reported in June 2007.
- Data from the age 5 survey are now available. The age 7 survey took place in 2008. The intention is to follow this cohort into adulthood like its predecessors.
Next Steps (formerly Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE))
- Next Steps, formerly known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), follows the lives of around 16,000 people born in 1989-90.
- The study began in 2004, when the cohort members were aged 13 to 14, and has collected information about their education and employment, economic circumstances, family life, physical and emotional health and wellbeing, social participation and attitudes.
- The Next Steps data has also been linked to National Pupil Database (NPD) records, which include the cohort members’ individual scores at Key Stage 2, 3 and 4.
- The initial Next Steps survey was in 2004 and included all young people in Year 9 who attended state and independent schools in England. Following the initial survey, the cohort members were visited every year until 2010, when they were age 19 to 20.
- The most recent survey took place in 2015/16, when the cohort members were 25 years old.